A GLYNT PLAYBOOK

Better Data for the Planet

How Every Company Can Get Their Emissions Data & Why It’s a Win-Win

#betterdatafortheplanet

About this Playbook

Earth Day comes every year and we aspire to do better. But this year is different.

First, scientists are telling us time is running out – it is “Now or Never” on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

And second, the business of climate change is in full swing. The proposed SEC regulations have formally launched a $9B market for producing emissions data and climate risk disclosures. This includes the software and services that will help public companies in meeting the mandates. But add to it the $300B cleantech services and technologies required to reduce emissions, and the $35T sustainable finance market. The business of climate has arrived (sources: SEC, FactsandFigures, and Bloomberg).

So, while every year we have significant worry and angst about the ever increasing level of GHG emissions, this year every company can not only get their emissions data, but act on it. There is a whole ecosystem ready to help, including financing.

GLYNT speaks to dozens and dozens of companies each month. We’re constantly hearing stories of “How do I get started?”, “Where is this all going?” and “The SEC rules are so complicated, what should I do first?” We wrote this practical guide to provide answers to those questions.

Chapter 1: Round up the Bills

A stack of utility bills inside a white photo border. Looks like it's been stuck to the page with some blue washi tape

Rounding up energy invoices and utility bills takes more time than anyone would like. Utility bills are complicated, and often must be paid quickly – within 2 – 3 weeks – to avoid a late fee. So there are special utility bill processing companies.

And, energy brokers, folks who help corporations find cheaper energy contracts often process utility bills as a service. The broker will process the bills to get the detailed data needed to negotiate down to the last penny.

To add to the confusion, about 40% of utility bills in the US – and a similar number around the globe – are sent out in paper form, via snail mail. So these must be scanned at the office or at a scanning center. When scanned at the office, it is often the case that the office admin scans all the paper invoices once a day or once a week. The big stack of paper turns into a single pdf that contains lots of bills.

Why do so many companies ask GLYNT to log into utility sites to get bills on their behalf? Because they find it easier to get the bills anew than to coordinate with internal teams. Data silos persist and have strong walls. Don’t get discouraged!

For all of these reasons, it takes time to round up the bills. Our suggestion is to start with a list of property sites. For each site, use this checklist:

HOW TO ROUND UP UTILITY BILLS AND ENERGY INVOICES

Identify the utility companies serving the site. Include water, waste, natural gas and electricity
Find out where the bill is sent
Find out what the recipient does with the bill
Get copies of bills for each account, a 13 – 25 month history*
Arrange to have any new bill copied and sent to you month by month
Repeat for every account at the site
Repeat for all the sites
*Always get one additional bill. For a 12-month history you’ll need 13 months of bills because the billing periods are frequently mid-month to mid-month

Yes, this is a form of torture! It does take some time, but getting this data organized does pay off.

Chapter 2: Operationalize Each Site

OK, now you have a stack of PDFs. Once the data is liberated, you’ll have a one or two-year baseline of data.

But… how to liberate that data? GLYNT built an automated system to do exactly this task, but let’s imagine you don’t have access to GLYNT. Your choices are:

  • Manual data entry
  • Outsourcing
  • Use an optical character recognition (OCR) engine, then code up some post-OCR processing
  • Use a digital assistant (an RPA bot)
  • Use an AP vendor

In our experience the automated solutions, such as an RPA bot or OCR plus post processing, work fine for the first bill or two, but quickly fall into the quagmire of diverse utility bills. There are over 250,000 distinct utility bill layouts in the US alone. Unless an automated solution is tailored to this diversity, it will produce highly inaccurate data. It is no surprise that manual data entry persists. Data capture from utility bills and energy invoices is just hard.

A photo of an office building with a white photo border. It looks like it's been stuck to the page with some green washi tape.
To continue, let’s assume you have your data in hand. The next step is to organize it into a standard output. Specifically, take two electricity bills, each from a different company. Identify the data you want on each bill. Create a single field list that does the job. This is the semantic organization of your data.

Expand your test case to water bills, natural gas bills and so on. Keep testing your field list. At some point you’ll see the patterns and settle into a field list that seems to work for all the bills. Victory! Make sure the field includes the energy usage and usage units, and also the zip code of the service address. You’ll need this data for calculating your emissions.

Check your field list across two or three sites. And go to the business team, or data users and make sure the field list fits their needs too.

Watch for multiple commodities on a bill. This happens for utilities that provide gas and electric services, bills that have water, sewer and waste and bills that cover multiple sites. You’ll need data for each of these; omitting a commodity leads to underreporting of emissions. Review data from AP processing companies carefully, as they are not set up for multiple commodities.

And then the last step: Add in the emissions factors. You’ll need to know the carbon content of your local electricity supply, and also for the other fuels, such as heating oil, natural gas and so on. Use the data provided by EPA for sites in the US. For sites in other countries, similar data is available from the IEA.

 Then go back to the first site and operationalize your data process.

HOW TO OPERATIONALIZE A SITE FOR EMISSIONS DATA CAPTURE

Get 13 – 25 months of utility bills and energy invoices at the site
Verify that the field list fits with how the data will be used
Get the data off the document, eg manual data entry or…
Organize the data into your common field list
Make sure to include usage and usage units
Make sure to include zip code of the service address
Get all of this data for the 12 – 24 month history by utility account by site
Schedule time each month to add the new bills to the data set
Repeat for every utility account at the site
Verify how you’ll get next month’s bills

 

Repeat this process for each site.

 

Chapter 3: Display Your Results

Now you have your data in hand, and it is ready to use! First you’ll want to aggregate the data across sites to create a single emissions history. 

Here’s a nice example from Brother. Scope 1 emissions are from the energy burned on-site, such as emissions from burning coal to run machinery. Scope 2 emissions are from energy purchased and used in buildings such as electricity, natural gas and so on.

And the World Resources Institute, a global non-profit, leads by example. They have an online dashboard for emissions reporting and downloadable data sets. Here’s a screenshot of their Scope 2 emissions display.

There are a number of commercial vendors that provide easy-to-use software that help report emissions data and then also plan reductions. GLYNT did a survey covering more than 300 carbon accounting and sustainability vendors in late 2021. We found that the vast majority require customers to bring their own energy and emissions data for use in the software. 

Sadly, there are no shortcuts to preparing emissions data. 

Chapter 4: Get Your Win-Win

GLYNT has a unique perspective on the business of climate. We produce Scope 1 and 2 emissions data from energy invoices and utility bills. Our data is used by leading companies around the globe. And we’re seeing the data start to flow. But the value to great data does not stop with graphs, analytics and regulatory compliance. There’s more: We’re seeing emissions data turn into an opportunity to profit.

So there’s a direct thru-line: Report data, reap rewards.

 

GLYNT: Gains for You, Gains for the Planet

GLYNT’s mission is to help every business benefit from their emissions data. Every day we help companies gather their data, operationalize the first sites and scale up to automating data flows from all of the customer’s sites. We work with the major sustainability and carbon accounting software companies to speed data flows to their platforms. 

Getting the data flows going is just the first step. But the flywheel of change accelerates if there are real benefits to the agent of change. If we could shout from the rooftops this Earth Day, here’s what we would say: “This year is different. Get your emissions data and profit it from it! There is an entire ecosystem ready to help you reduce energy and emissions. You’ll qualify for cheaper financing and increase the value of your company. This year is truly different.”

The business of carbon has lined up to make emissions reporting and reduction profitable. And every step helps the planet. We have the tools we need for the win-win, accelerating the flywheel of change. 2022 could be the turning point on emissions reductions.

#betterdatafortheplanet

Happy Earth Day!

 

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